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This past summer I worked as an organizer with the Center for Community Change Action. I spent my time educating Montanas about the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and the need for directly impacted folks to speak up and share their stories.

Talking with hundreds of Montanans, I explained the difference between “entitlements” and “block grants,” as well as how government affects almost every aspect of our lives whether we know it or not.

I talked about President Trump’s budget, which outlined billions in cuts to all safety net programs. The president’s budget is an outline that sets the tone for how Congress develops the federal budget. The reality is that Republicans are in control of the House, the Senate and the presidency, and they have been very vocal about how they want to cut programs that many people depend on to pay for tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

In December, the House and Senate passed a tax reform bill that the president signed. This is a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the upper class. The plan makes permanent tax breaks for the wealthy and ends what little benefit there is for the rest of us by 2027, adding an estimated $1.5 trillion in debt to the country. They have offered no way to pay for these tax cuts, justifying plans of the Party of the deficit hawks, to go after the programs that benefit the most vulnerable in our country.

Some programs in jeopardy are the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), rural development grants/loans (which help pay for infrastructure and repairs for low-income homeowners), Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the list goes on. Ultimately, the GOP plan is to cut everything that helps low-income people, seniors, children and people with disabilities. There is also talk of larger “reforms” to these programs. “Reforms” equal cuts.

Taxes pay for public libraries, public education, fire departments, police departments, bridge repairs, fixing the roads we drive on every day. I’m not against paying taxes. Paying taxes is not a bad thing. It is a problem when the wealthy don’t pay their fair share and pay less of a percentage of taxes than the rest of us do. Even Mitt Romney admitted during his presidential run in 2012 that he paid only 13 percent in taxes and the average worker paid around 35 percent. The new tax law will make this gap even bigger.

It is very important to get educated with good, reliable information. Two good places for data is cbpp.org (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) and cbo.gov (Congressional Budget Office).

You should read “Aftershock The Next Economy and America’s Future” by Robert B. Reich, former Secretary of Labor under three different administrations (Republican and Democrat), and “Social Security Works!” by Nancy J. Altman and Eric R. Kingson.

Most importantly, contact U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte at 202-225-3211, U.S. Sen. Steve Daines at 202-224-2651 and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester at 202-224-2644, and let them know what you think about these policies and issues. If you can, make appointments to meet with their staff at the local level as well.

Talk with your friends and neighbors, and get involved! We need to make our voices heard and often. Otherwise, we’ll continue to get drowned out by corporations and extremely wealthy interests.

I’m not opposed to those who have a lot of money just because they have money. I’m opposed to a rigged system that benefits the few at the expense of everyone else.

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Virjeana (Jeannie) Brown of Belgrade is an organizer who worked with the Center for Community Change Action this past summer. 

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